Orange and Nutella Babka

Hands up then, who’s planning on putting their tree up this weekend?  I’ve got Sunday set aside purely for de-tangling fairy lights, rummaging through our decorations (Sunny and I collect decorations from all the places we’ve travelled to) and then hoovering up pine needles.  I can’t wait!  But hey, it’s a knackering job innit?  There’s nothing better than crashing onto the sofa afterwards with a hot cup of tea and something sweet!  Well, I’ve got the perfect Christmas Decorating Fuel for you; this Orange and Nutella Babka.

I spotted a few of these on Social Media before I went off to the States on Holiday and had never heard of them before, and then I saw even more out there in supermarkets and bakeries.  They’re an Eastern European invention and are basically a sweet loaf that’s stuck somewhere between bread and cake.  The dough is filled with whatever sweet filling you fancy, rolled up, snipped down the middle and twisted to form swirls.  It’s best eaten straight out of the oven warm; perfect for baking while you’re buried up to your neck in tinsel. 😉

Orange and Nutella Babka (makes one beast of a loaf, or two smaller loaves)

Ingredients

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 250g plain flour (and a little extra for dusting)
  • 15g fresh yeast (dry active)
  • 200ml soda water (a neat little trick to give your loaf a little extra rise)
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 50 ml melted butter (plus a little extra for greasing)
  • 1 egg (whisked)
  • 1 small jar of Nutella
  • Zest of one Orange
  • 50g Chopped Hazelnuts
  • 50g Chopped chunks of chocolate
  • A little milk to wash.
  1. First things first, you’re going to need to activate your yeast.  Pour the soda water and boiling water into a bowl.  Dissolve the sugar into the water and then sprinkle over the yeast.  Whisk and then leave the bowl somewhere warm for 15 minutes (I use my airing cupboard!) until the yeast begins to froth.
  2. Once the yeast is ready, pour in the melted butter and then add the salt, flour, cinnamon and orange zest.  Stir it together to create a sticky dough.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.
  3. Once the dough’s been kneaded, pop in a lightly oiled bowl and leave it to prove somewhere warm for one hour.
  4. After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size.  Turn it onto a floured surface and roll it out into a rough square shape that’s about 1cm thick.  Spread the Nutella – taking it as close to the edges as possible – then sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts (hold some back to decorate) and chocolate on top.  Roll it up like a swiss roll and seal each end.
  5. Now to shape the Babka.  Take a sharp knife and cut the dough right down the middle leaving a space at the top (it should look like a pair of legs once you’re done).  Take each leg and turn it so the sticky inside layers are facing upwards.  Now twist one leg over the other until you get a tight plait from one end to the other – making sure you keep those inside layers facing up.
  6. Grease and line a loaf tin and then fill it with your twisted dough. There’s a knack to this bit; you want to make sure the ends are folded under, while the middle is on top.  Cover it with a damp tea towel and leave the dough to prove for another hour.
  7. Set your oven to 200°. Give the surface of the babka a little wash with milk and sprinkle with a few extra chopped hazelnuts and orange zest, then bake it for 30 minutes – covering the top with foil after 15 minutes to protect those layers from burning.
  8. Scoff warm with some extra Nutella! 🙂

Happy Weekend (and happy decorating!)! ♡

12 Hours in Key West

Here come some palm trees, key lime pie and gypsy chickens to brighten up this very gloomy Monday morning!  I can’t believe that this time last month (I’m pretty sure down to the day) I was wandering the streets of beautiful, balmy (and – let’s be totally honest here – a little bit barmy) Key West.  The southernmost city in the USA and the westernmost island of the Florida Keys, it really is a little world all on its own – a stepping stone between the star-spangled mainland and Cuba.  By day it’s a quaint island town full of clapboard houses with shady porches, lazy bars, bakeries and stray chickens… but by night?  As soon as that sun sets over Mallory Square, ANYTHING goes.  Sunny and I were there slap bang in the middle of Fantasy Fest (Key West’s annual 10 Day adults only extravaganza) and we saw… things.





Since we were staying on the middle keys (Islamorada and Marathon), we only had a day to explore Key West – which was more than enough because the island’s tiny and the city even smaller.  We had breakfast at a bar on Front Street, wandered around looking at the pretty houses on Emma and Fleming Streets, and then climbed the old lighthouse for a 360° view of the sea.



When the heat started to hit (it was close to 100 °F out of the shade of the palm and banyan trees) we hit up Ernest Hemingway’s House just off Whitehead Street.  The writer lived there in the thirties and descendants of his lucky polydactl (six-toed) cat Snow White still live there now and pretty much have the run of the house.  I think there are over fifty wandering around the house and gardens, snoozing on the bed and in the shade beside the massive (for Key West, anyway) swimming pool that Pauline Hemingway sneakily had fitted while Ernest was working as a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War.




When lunch swung around we ducked into Moondog Cafe for some fresh limeade and (finally!) some real, homemade Key Lime Pie.  I say “real” because true Key Lime Pie has to be made from Swingle Limes, which are smaller than regular limes with a slightly different flavour and a yellow juice.  Apparently it was first whipped up by the cook of Key West’s first millionaire – but the recipe might have come from local sponge fishermen who took canned milk, limes and eggs out onto their boats.  🙂


We finished the day off on Mallory Square where everyone gathers on the dock to watch the sun set over the water.

Have a lovely week everyone! 💚

 

5 Weekday Lunches

I’m absolutely useless when it comes to eating lunch during the week.  Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m the first person to dive head first into the fridge at lunchtime, but I always seem to surface with my hands empty and end up heading off to the snack cupboard instead.  Jam Doughnut?  That’ll do.  Half a bag of Tortilla Chips?  Be rude not to.  I grab and I go and more often than not I end up swinging back in a couple of hours for round two because – you guessed it – I didn’t eat a proper lunch.

So this week I decided to shun the snack cupboard and sort myself out with some proper midday grub in under 15 minutes using whatever happened to be in the fridge.  It was really nice to take some time to cook (mostly) from scratch and treat myself to a little lunch date every day! 🙂

Monday: Egg on Toast

Yes, it’s simple and probably a little bit boring, but you can’t beat fried egg on a slab of toast.  I was going to mash up a little avocado to go with it, but since none of the ones hanging around in my fruit bowl were ripe, I had to go without.  I finished things off with some chopped chives, a little grated cheddar, chilli flakes and black pepper.  Yum!

Tuesday: Sweet Potato Hash

On Tuesday I found some leftover halloumi (…does such a thing exist?) when I was rummaging around in my fridge, so I quickly fried it up with some garlic, diced sweet potato, button mushrooms, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes.  I mixed in some salad and grated cheese (extra cheese!) and scoffed it in front of a brand new episode of Outlander (I’m so happy it’s back!).

Wednesday: Flatbread Pizza

Hump Day Treat!  Sunny was working from home and found some flatbread in the fridge and complained that it wasn’t any good – “You can’t make a sandwich with that!”.  Nope, you can’t.  But you can make pizza.  I spread some tomato puree over the top, sprinkled it with some grated mozzarella, added some chopped button mushrooms and tomatoes and then grilled it for ten minutes.  Mwah!

Thursday: Toasted Tea Cake

Change of scenery! On Thursday, I ended up popping out to the local garden centre coffee shop to catch up with my Mum and Dad.  My Mum and I love a good old toasted tea cake with plenty of butter; old habits die hard, so that’s what I had. 🙂

Friday: *Pheasant Tikka Masala by Wild and Game

A very gloomy Friday afternoon treat!  Okay, so this one didn’t take 15 minutes – but since it involved absolutely zero effort on my part other than turning the oven on and grilling a bit of naan bread, I’m counting it.  Wild and Game have a whole range of ready meals and pies made with meat from game animals like grouse, pheasant, partridge and hare.  I know what you’re thinking – you’re imagining dinner at Downton Abbey, aren’t you?  Well, while game used to be the nosh of the well to do, thanks to companies like Wild and Game you don’t need a spot on the civil list to get your hands on it.  When they got in touch and asked if I’d like to try their Pheasant Tikka Masala, I said “yes please!” and ended up trying it out this afternoon as a Friday lunchtime treat.  I’d never tried pheasant before (although I’m used to seeing them pottering around the field near where I live – Bungle loves to chase them!) and so I wasn’t sure what it was going to taste like or whether I’d even like it.  But it was delicious, with a flakey, tender texture and a taste slightly similar to turkey, and the curry was the sort of “little bit of what you fancy” Tikka Masala you’d happily pick off a gastropub menu and order with half and half (half rice, half chips for the uninitiated 😉 ). Tasty, and with a hefty portion of pheasant enough to serve two.

I’ve been a bit put off with chicken recently after cooking up a stringy, bad batch from the supermarket a few months ago.  The truth is chicken is terribly over-consumed in the UK and chickens incredibly poorly treated (over 20 million are killed every week for their meat – if you want your eyes opened on the subject then just watch this bbc documentary), and I’m personally a little fed up with being a part of that whole process.  Pheasant, to me, seems to be an ethical and affordable alternative.

What’s your favourite working lunch? 🙂

Review: The Good Girl’s Guide to Being a Dick

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Not long after I moved back to Cardiff and into my house, the Jehovahs came knocking.  Two tiny, very sweet old ladies rang my doorbell whilst I was in the middle of emptying boxes and – caught up in the excitement of someone ringing my brand new doorbell – I rushed downstairs and opened the door.  I inwardly groaned as soon as they held out The Watchtower leaflet.  I wasn’t interested.  I didn’t have the time to discuss whether suffering is a punishment from God.  The only suffering I was interested in was the stacks of boxes upstairs that STILL needed emptying and where the hell I was going to put(/hide) Sunny’s stupid, ugly alligator head that had somehow survived the move from London.  In spite of all that, I found that I just couldn’t bring myself to slam the door in their sweet old lady faces or even gently tell them that I wasn’t interested.  I felt bad.  So instead, I stood in the doorway and decided to humour them for ten minutes.  When they handed me The Watchtower I took it and even joked that I needed something to read since all my books were in storage – even though I knew it was going to end up in the bin before they’d even made it to the end of my drive.  I didn’t want them to think I was mean.

Fast-forward three years later and those sweet old Jehovahs are still coming back.  We’ve settled into a rhythm.  They ring my doorbell once every couple of months, ask me how I’m doing, drop off their leaflet and then disappear.  They know my name.  They know my dog’s name.  The window for telling them that I’m not interested and have thrown away every single leaflet they’ve given me without reading a single word has looooooong gone.  And so here we are, all because I was too nice to tell them to go away.

This is just one example of how I’m constantly sacrificing my time and energy to spare other people’s feelings.  Social guilt all over the shop, all the time.  So, when I spotted The Good Girl’s Guide to Being a Dick in the airport bookshop, I knew I needed to pick it up.

Alexandra Reinwarth realised that her day to day behaviour was constantly being triggered by her fear of what other people thought of her.  She realised that she was spending far too much time with people she didn’t like, in places she didn’t want to be, doing things she didn’t want to do, all because she worried what people would think of her if she told the honest -often brutal -truth.  She needed to “become a bit of a dick”.  The book explores her journey in taking back control of her life (becoming more of a dick), from ditching a friend who was constantly using her as a doormat, heading into the office without a lick of makeup and dealing with difficult family members – full of funny and insightful anecdotes and advice on how to stop caring what people think.

It’s not a very long book – only six chapters – and so was an easy pool read and I pretty much swallowed the whole thing up in a couple of days (mostly because I kept getting looks around the pool on my choice of reading material and decided that I needed to wrap things up pretty quickly.  Ha!  Three chapters in and I shed that concern!).  While it’s not a traditional self help book in the fact that it doesn’t really contain any real techniques, it’s full of examples to follow and reads like a pep talk in the art of living honestly and getting what you want (without turning into an actual dick in the process!).  

I mean obviously I don’t want to become a dick.  But, reading the book has made me stop and think of all the times I’ve told little lies or put my own happiness aside because I’ve worried what people would think of me; the world won’t end if someone doesn’t like me.  I’ve started to notice whenever I’m heading down that road, and I’ve become a little bit more honest with those around me about what I care about or don’t like.  Of course, the true test will be whether I can tell the Jehovah’s to politely bugger off next time they ring the door bell.  They are due, after all…

Have a great week!  Or not, whatever. 😉

 

 

 

A Floridian Halloween

I was so excited when I found out that my (very late) summer holiday in Florida was going to clash with Halloween – I mean, come on, America’s pretty much the mothership when it comes to all things Autumn Fall. 

There’s something really weird about visiting a tropical climate around this time of year when everyone’s shivering and slugging around in the drizzle back home.  I mean, I just couldn’t get on board with the Christmas Trees that sprung up between the palm trees on November the 1st, but Halloween was a totally different story.  Floridian Halloweens are weird in the best kind of way.  Because it’s warm in the evenings, everyone sits out on their porch to watch the trick or treaters come and go – grilling, drinking beer and chatting with their neighbours in between. Plus, the costumes are incredible because no one has to worry about bundling coats on top or layers underneath.


Because we were staying in a community full of families rather than a hotel, Sunny and I really got to experience Halloween – from the night itself and the preparations beforehand, including the amazing decorations.  We saw some really creative ones just driving around the neighbourhood; from 6 foot tall inflatable vampire bats and giant spiders, to this crafty pair of skeletons… 😉



Pumpkin Patches sprung up in parking lots everywhere – not just for buying pumpkins but for staging family (and pet!) photoshoots.

Because we were heading to a Halloween party, I decided to bake some holiday appropriate Welshcakes… which turned out to be really, really salty because American butter is way, way saltier than British Butter.  Not the best I’ve ever made, but the Candy Corn ones did look pretty cool!


Oh, and Sunny and I dressed up as Spongebob Squarepants and his Pineapple.  Sunny found the head in Walmart and I just kind of had to fall in line.  I mean sure, eating was almost impossible, doors were a struggle and when I tried to sit down I kind of disappeared into it like a terrified turtle… but I think it’s my favourite thing I’ve ever worn (including the time I dressed up as an egg salad baguette – long story).  Also, because it was inflated by a battery powered fan, I had my own personal air-conditioning, which in Florida is not a bad thing at all.  We were a big hit with the neighbourhood, especially Sunny, who creeped out the older kids just enough to be considered cool, and was completely adored by the smaller kids.  🙂



I was posting on Instagram Stories the whole time I was in Florida, so if you fancy seeing more of what I got up to, swing by my Highlights. Have a great weekend everyone! 🍍